Tuesday, June 21, 2016

For the record: Suren's 'Crate Digger' is an emotional journey through punk and life

By Andy

Take a close look. You're in there somewhere.

When reading "Crate Digger" by Bob Suren, it's like peering into a mirror. Sometimes, everything's crystal clear, and life is good. At others, the object is a bit chipped, but still OK to deal with. But when it's smashed to pieces, you just want to surrender.

But you carry on -- through anger and tears when you've gone from victory to despair -- and keep moving up the cracked sidewalks to see what's around the next corner.

We're talking about life here, but also an obsession with punk records that took Suren from innocence among the stacks and the gig spaces to diving full-on into the DIY music realm -- label, distribution, store and more -- and playing in a plethora of bands. The Sound Idea and Burrito Records kingpin not only made an impact in his native Florida, but around the globe by hooking up new and veteran listeners alike with the crucial sounds that shaped his and many others' lives. He's one of the many punk pied pipers that we all should be stoked to have on our side.

From love and records gained to the loss of both, Suren shares his life with us and holds nothing back. Not an ounce. This guy's honesty and willingness to lay it all on the line for readers is something that many of us would never attempt. It's commendable because we get to examine our own lives through his highs and lows -- giving us a chance to wake up and change some things before they're gone. He's witty and gutsy and has a memory like a steel trap -- or a steel-toed boot that has seen some serious time in the pit.

"To this day, I still burst into verses of 'Stealing People's Mail' and 'Chemical Warfare,' for no reason at all, often at inappropriate moments, like weddings and bar mitzvahs."

"I was out of college, alone, alienated, and deeply unsatisfied with life. Flipper's creepy, monotone sludge and dark humor embodied the perfect soundtrack for my discontented early twenties. Square peg/round hole."

You'll laugh and you'll hurt with Suren all the way through this 191-page book released last year by Microcosm Publishing. You'll want to dig into your record collection and pinpoint how you obtained an LP or single, what the buying experience was like at the store and how the record made you feel when you plopped it onto the turntable and turned it up full blast. There's more to records than just the killer sounds: There's friendships and relationships, rage, joy, great times and shitty ones all connected to the vinyl. Think about those things the next time you play a record. It's a catharsis. A necessity.

There's 63 chapters here, and they're all vital. Bands like Florida stalwarts Eat, F (two of 'em) and Hated Youth along with round-the-world ragers DOA, Negative Approach, Rattus, Reason of Insanity, Toxic Reasons and Varaus are just some of the bands featured. While the records are the initial guide, they're only a brief intro into life intertwined with the tunes that give this book its edge.

"He was impossible not to like. Once he told me that he thought a particularly stoic person did not like him. I told him that was not true. After Frank died, that person called me to say how much he missed him. See, Frank, everybody liked you."

When I finished many a chapter -- of which a handful don't address records at all -- I'd lay the book down, wipe away a tear, smile and think about pivotal times in my life.

Making a mixtape for my girlfriend -- and now wife -- Cat in our formative years was always a big deal. I wanted her to like me even more through music that's important to me. We've always bought each other records, as well, not just for the music, but because we know it will make us happy and feel cared about.

Oh yeah, there was the time my friend Sean poked his cigarette into the lyric sheet of my Sloppy Seconds "Destroyed" album during a late-night listening session in our San Jose State University dorm. We laughed our asses off, and while his hair flopped and he reached for his mammoth cup of Dr. Pepper, he said, "You'll look at that burn one day and you'll remember this time."

That says it all.

P.S. Our good friend Bill Tuck gets a mention in the book along with his band Pillsbury Hardcore, so that's a bonus. And, yes, the music has changed us all for the better.

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